All 6 entries tagged Lib Dems

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July 28, 2006

Ming: 'A' for effort, 'E' for attainment

This week's ICM/Guardian poll wouldn't have made happy reading in Cowley Street, headquarters of the Lib Dems.

Ming's party have had a turbulent year following the removal of Charles Kennedy and Ming's subsequent election (not forgetting Mark Oaten's problems inbetween). But to be 4 points down compared with the last poll (at 17%) is pretty disastrous.

Ming himself accounts for a large part of the problem, but not all of it. Welsh Assembly member Peter Black has pointed the finger, arguing that "Ming has made little impact with the public at large", a fairly substantial criticism from an elected member of his own party.

But Peter is wrong when he says "if things go wrong then there is nobody else to blame". Because the party as a whole is partly culpable for its poll ratings.

While Cameron's Tories have managed to do very well without actually announcing any policies, the Lib Dems haven't managed to pull off the same trick. This is mainly because they don't appear to have any fixed principles with which to challenge the government. The Conservatives have carved out a 'message' without having to set anything in stone. Ming meanwhile is too involved in sorting out his own house to be able to set out what his party is.

The Lib Dems are an awkward coalition struggling to come to terms with the continued obsession with left–right politics in which they don't really fit. There's the right–wing 'Orange Book' group and the more socially conscious lefties in the party. Each is determined that the party needs to move in their direction to succeed, and in one way they're correct. Because for the Lib Dems, the middle ground isn't working.

Labour and the Conservatives are set to engage in a game of "who can best mimic the enemy" until the next election, where they set out policies which are remarkable alike, if not plain stolen.

So the Lib Dems need to be the real opposition, a term which they bandy about but don't seem able to fully grasp. While there is a fair amount of consensus in Britain at the moment, there's probably quite a strong current in the press and in current opinion which believes there's too much government. It's the traditional U.S. Republican stance, and one that is well suited to the Liberalism of the Liberals.

This is an area which fits well with many of their policies: ID Cards especially, diplomacy over military engagement, scrapping the council tax etc.

It would sit well with much of the public, and potentially out–Tory the Tories, without necessarily adopting the characteristics of the 'nasty party'.

There's no ground left to be fought for on the centre of British politics. For the Lib Dems to stand a chance, they need to have a stand and a message. In some ways they have it already, but haven't made it in the terms which would be attractive to the British public.

Ming probably isn't the right man to present this message, but until the party comes up with some idea of what it's about, it won't be able to find a leader who can do much better.

April 10, 2006

Ming, Ming, Where are you Ming?

When Charles Kennedy disappeared for months at length, we knew it was because he was 'tipsy'.

But why Menzies Campbell has copied his schedule is a bit of a mystery… surely he realizes the Lib Dems only 'went dark' because their leader couldn't think of anything useful to say.

Certainly, you wouldn't expect to hear any new policy announcements so far away from a General Election. And to be fair their website has lots of recent press releases about dentists, Airbus (see below), hospitals in Wiltshire and other exciting issues.

And it's not implausible to suppose that Ming is buried away working away on the local election campaign.

But come the elections, people are going to be asking why they should vote for the Lib Dems when they haven't done anything recently. We need a few soundbites here, a little publicity there, or else the media will be forced into treating things as a two-horse race.

January 06, 2006

Hmm….. so much for my…

… prediction of "he'll be gone by 6pm".

Charles Kennedy – who sealed his fate?

George Pascoe-Watson, the new Political Editor of the Sun made the point on Sky News today (in a cosy interview/chat with his wife, Kay Burley, incidentally) that it wasn't the media's fault that Charles Kennedy had to leave his job. In his words…

we just report the facts!

But is this strictly true?

For a start, it's the pressure of 24-hour news channels (albeit only two of them now) that means the story has turned around so quickly. In the space of 24 hours, Kennedy has gone from being in the same weak position where he's been for months to one where his position is utterly untenable.

For instance this morning on the Today programme, the leader of the Lib Dems in the European Parliament said Kennedy was a "dead man walking". This led to more calls for him to resign, followed by the confirmation from Vince Cable that he believed he should leave immediately and finally the 'threatened' resignation of one of Kennedy's top team. All of this in under 5 hours!

Also, is the decision of Liberal Democrat MPs to challenge Mr Kennedy not directly as a result of the poor coverage that he has received in the press? Every newspaper today says he should go quietly, and his policies have not broken through the glass ceiling for months now.

What's more, Lib Dems know that the coverage that Kennedy gets is only going to get worse, especially given the very open in-fighting which is now taking place. See Iain Duncan Smith's slow exit of the Conservative party as an example of a political leader being on a one-way street to the backbenches.

So while it is Lib Dem MPs who have forced Kennedy into a position from where he must surely resign (by 6pm tonight, I predict), it is the media which has churned and spat out this story in 24 hours, rather than several weeks.


Incidentally, if Winston Churchill lived in a world of 24-hour instant news, would his alcoholism have been tolerated? I doubt it very much.


And also incidentally, a very good article about 24 hour news and its effects on the 'news cycle' by Mark Lawson in today's Guardian.

January 05, 2006

Charles Kennedy calls time

Charles Kennedy has followed the advice of many of his MPs (huh, was forced anyway!) and is holding a leadership election. He's angry because it'll detract from talking about important issues. But then when was the last time you heard Kennedy talk about important issues?

Take today. The main story put out about the Lib Dems was about a 12-year-old who has been named Chairman of his local constituency party. Yup. Luckily he said he was a Kennedy fan and thought he should stay. Handy, that.

Charles Kennedy has chosen an all-out leadership election because he knows no-one will beat him, that's if anyone else even runs. What Lib Dem MPs wanted was a vote of confidence, which he would have been far more likely to lose.

But it is not the 'distracting' leadership election which should be making Lib Dem supporters angry. It is Charles Kennedy's refusal to submit himself to a rigourous test of his leadership. A leadership election might sound great, but realistically, it's going to massively favour the incumbent. John Major used the same tactic in 1995 when John Redwood (yeah, who?) ran against him.

If Charles Kennedy wanted to do the best thing for his party, he should hold a snap vote of confidence, saying to his MPs "I want to carry on. Do you want me?"

Because it is better to be sure you have a solid leader than one who is holding on by a thread. Kennedy is doing his party no favours by holding his own position in a higher regard than his party's chances at the next election.

This leadership election will not kill off Kennedy's critics, and while he almost certainly will win, I'll be amazed if he's still around at the time of the next election.

December 18, 2005

Time, Charlie Boy

My take on half the Lib Dems' calling for a leadership election?

What took you so long!? The signs were there at the Party Conference, where Kennedy's speech was more of a begging letter than a path for the future. He's clearly lost his way, whether he thinks he has or not.

But the Lib Dems are almost scared of holding an election for a new leader. Why? Because they have no idea who to choose. Do they go for a centrist such as Ming Campbell or Simon Hughes, who will lead them chasing after Labour's disenfranchised voters. Or do they go the other way, and chase after Cameron.

Purely in terms of elections, I know which way I'd go. You can take your chances against a wounded government, not particularly popular with the public, and who got to power with the consent of only 22% of the population.

Or alternatively, you could go after a modern, attractive-sounding party who seem certain to increase their support in the 2009(?) election.


The Lib Dems aren't going to take votes away from David Cameron, who looks set to be 'Britain's saviour' at the next election (even if he doesn't win), but stand a good chance of beating Labour at a game they invented many moons ago.

Never mind the ideological reasons for avoiding the right-wing route, the Lib Dems need a moderniser like Hughes or Campbell, just because that's where the voters are waiting for them, even if it does mean far more hits on

P.S. Loving the effort at

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